Extremadura – a natural touristic attraction
Since the recent rediscovery of this region renowned for its old time colonial discoverers and its partridge and boar hunts, tourism has flourished without affecting the intensity of wildlife, and birdlife in particular. A significant pioneer to draw attention to this unique and ecological landscape of this part of Spain, was the presence of landscape artists of the Artists For Nature Foundation at the Finca Santa Marta in 1992 and 1993 to paint landscapes of the Extremeños, their traditional way of life, animals and plants. This was ANF’s third international project and resulted in a widely appreciated book focussed on the “Flight of the Cranes” from nordic countries to their winter feeding grounds in Extremadura.
With subsequent European support, the regional Government has set up a series of natural conservation programs which are having positive effects on the lifestyle of an emigration-prone population, and on helping to propel the awareness of nature among Spanish and European city dwellers.
Proximity to Extremadura’s Main Attractions
Extremadura’s zones of scenic beauty and ancient towns are at no more than one hour drive from Finca Santa Marta. The whole area combines an unique variation of ecosystems.
“Its landscapes are desolate and lovely at the same time; a strange mixture that has pulled and enchanted many visitors.Extremadura is one of those ancient rural regions, shaped by man and shaping him over the course of centuries. The result is a rich flora and fauna and a unique traditional lifestyle with tiny villages and ancient cities.”
From Crossbill Guide on Extremadura
Classic Highlights of Extremadura:
- The Monfrague National Park area (50kms north, via Trujillo,at14 kms)
- The mountainous area surrounding 13th-century Guadalupe, now called the Geopark of Villuercas (50 kms, east).
- Medieval Caceres, (50 kms West), across across bird- rich and sparsely populated plains, and Roman town of Merida (80 kms west).
Links to further info:
Ranging from rugged mid-range mountains to hybrids of savannah-like ecosystems of small scale, dehesas are holm oak covered crop-and pasture landscapes. They are important foraging areas for predators (eagles and vultures), and the habitat of resident birds like owls, black- shouldered kites, hoopoes, bee eaters, azure winged magpies. And with an average of over 30 species of flowers per sq meter, the dehesas are also a botanical paradise.
Steppes, Bustards, Merinos and Transhumancia
At short driving distances, the treeless steppes equally host rich birdlife, like the unique great bustards, little bustards, and sandgrouse. On these pasture lands merino sheep, later exported to Australia and Argentina, forged robust pastoral communities, organisers of the springtime transhumancia to the green landscapes of Northern Spain through the age old cañadas (30 meter wide lanes).
Storks and Cranes
Thousands of white storks flying in from Africa breed between January and July and invade the nearby countryside while not shying from electric poles and city towers. The cautious but raucous nordic cranes, however, shunning human populations, feed from November to January in daytime on acorn and maize fields, to roost at day’s end along watershores. See www.grustours.com (with interesting European and Sp. links).
Streams, Rivers and Reservoirs
The prevailing winds intercepted by the northern and eastern sierras of Guadalupe, contribute to the rich vegetation of mountain slopes and an abundance of wildflowers along the streams. The streams lead to extended reservoirs or pantanos, and hence through 50 year old irrigation networks to water-demanding tomato ,rice and sunflower fields. The new habitat helps nature-lovers to enjoy spontaneous encounters with tractor -driving farmers. Foreigners regret not to be able to communicate more.